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Published: January 30th 2010
Despite the title of this entry, I set off from Quito this morning on a 7:20am bus bound for Tulcan, the closest city to Colombia any Ecuadorian bus will take you. Promptly at noon, we arrived at the Tulcanterminal from where I took an extremely expensive $3.50 cab to the frontera
(My 5 hour bus ride cost $4.75). I asked around - both inside and outside of the terminal. There was no budging on the price. I didn’t feel too bad about paying that amount once I saw the traffic getting across the border. I’m not sure what the hold up was because at one point, my cabbie went renegade and drove along the shoulder to where he needed to drop me off - Ecuadorian immigration. Nothing much going here. I simply needed my exit stamp.
Between Ecuador and Colombia is a river. One must walk across the bridge over the river to get into Colombia. I felt exhilarated. I savored every step. I walked slow, taking it all in. I felt for sure something big was going to go down at the border. I didn’t want to leave. In fact, I wondered for a long while what it would
be like to live in this tiny border town. I’d be living on the edge! Silly girl.
The Colombian immigration office, just like the Ecuador counterpart, was empty. I was the only person in there. I tried sweet-talking the immigration officer into giving me 90 days on my visa instead of the standard 60. “Me encanta Colombia! I would like to stay for three months. It’s so big and beautiful with so much to see.” He probed me with the usual questions (I hope). What do I do for work. How much do I earn. Where are my parents. Are they far from where I live. Am I hoping to find a Colombian boyfriend. My friendly, eyelash batting did nothing. And then it dawned on me. Rather, the officer made it explicit. “Por un pocito de dinero…” and here he made the sign for “small” with his fingers… for a small amount of money, I can buy more time in Colombia at the end of my 60 days. But, of course!
Entry stamped received, I walked out to the parking area on the Colombian side and waited for a collectivo
to fill up. Ninety cents got me to
El Sanctuario de Las Lajas
This is the money shot you see everywhere. I wish the lighting were better, the sky more blue.
the terminal in Ipiales, the closet town on the Colombian side of the border. I could’ve walked back to the Ecuadorian side to catch a taxi but I wasn’t in a rush nor did I want to know how much that would cost. I ended up paying one whole dollar for the shared shuttle to Ipiales because the driver was kind enough to let me run out to the ATM to get some Colombian pesos. From the terminal, I ditched my luggage in their storage office and jetted off in another taxi collectivo
to El Sancturio de Las Lajas. Cost = 2,000 COP, or US$1, each way.
I wasn’t sure if I’d actually make it Las Lajas. The only thing there is the Sanctury, of which I’ve seen the most beautiful photos. Sure enough, the real thing is just as stunning in person. I’ll leave the photos to do the talking. After the Sanctury and return to the terminal in Ipiales, I hopped on another bus ($3.50) for Pasto, about 90 minutes away. Man, those Colombian buses! I had forgotten what daredevils they are. We were barreling down this two lane hill (one lane in each direction), and for
How I missed you!
some reason, there are houses all along the side of the road. At one point, I saw an old lady in a wheel chair parked in front of her house. She was no more than 5 feet from the NASCAR bus races. It was looney. A short distance later, I saw a vulture perched on top of one of the railing posts. He was just waiting for us to drive off the road. Come to think of it, maybe he was waiting for granny in the wheelchair. Anyway, I’ve made it to Pasto without incident. The Las Lajas excursion was well worth it. I’ve met a couple of locals via couchsurfing.com so once I clean up and rest up a bit, hopefully I’ll get a nice tour of the town.
In other news, I weighed myself yesterday. I’ve officially lost about 15 pounds since I started traveling 4 months ago. I think I weighed more than this in high school. And the thing I realized today about muscular atrophy that really sucks is when you actually have to walk uphill or up stairs, it’s hard and it hurts! Plus, my watch is too big. I gotta get some exercise...
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